DM of the Rings XXXVIII:
As Simple as Calculus

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Dec 6, 2006

Filed under: DM of the Rings 159 comments

Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Lots of Orcs, Grapple Rules, Attack of Opportunity
Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Lots of Orcs, Grapple Rules, Attack of Opportunity

And here I finally deliver the joke / point I wanted to make way back in strip #16. The rules as presented in the rulebook seem sensible enough: If someone enters a square adjacent to an enemy, that enemy gets a free swing at them, right then and there, regardless of who’s turn it is. I’m sure proponents of the system can give you a nice list of reasons for this, why it makes combat more realistic, or what exploit it is supposed to counter.

On the surface this makes sense, although there are so many exceptions and qualifiers and footnotes and special cases that three pages after you’ve read this simple premise you’re knee-deep in a dark coagulating pool of madness. Aside from the complications of suddenly inserting a turn out of established order, there are rules to check and bonues to apply and – most sadistic of all – more information to track. Now you have to track who’s taken an AOO this round and who hasn’t, and how many such attacks each combatant is allowed, and how to handle cases where two people get AOO at once, or what happens when one AOO knocks the target into an adjacent square and creates another AOO, or how to handle AOO between creatures of greatly differing sizes and how to deal with tentacled foes and how all of this intersects with rushing, sprinting, and grappling, or what to do if an AOO is possible but the potential attacker might not be aware of the target and does this apply to non-combatants and SWEET MERCY WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE!??! WILL YOU LOOK AT ALL THIS PAPERWORK!


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159 thoughts on “DM of the Rings XXXVIII:
As Simple as Calculus

  1. Carl the Bold says:

    Bite your tongue–calculus is not that bad!

  2. Crusader Corim says:

    I’d have to agree. Calculus is WAY easier.

    Naturally, that means I love the system, since complexity is what makes a great system.

    Of course, I usually play monks, which means I get even MORE arcane. (Does abundant step trigger an AOO when I use it to flank an enemy?)

  3. Felagund says:

    Okay, first off, I love the comic. I got a link about a month ago, and have been following it since. It’s absolutely hilarious.

    Next, I think you have the Attack of Opportunity rules a bit mixed up. Unless there was a change in 3.5 that I never caught, or my switch to the skirmish game has completely ruined my mind for RPG rules, you don’t provoke for entering a threatened square. You do provoke for leaving a threatened square (with certain exceptions, of course).


    1. Techan says:

      There is a handy little chart on the back of most DM screens that tells you what actions provoke an attack of opportunity. In the case illustrated in this comic: First of all, you cannot make an attack of opportunity with a bow UNLESS you have the specific feat that lets you make a poin blank attack of opportunity with a bow, and then not with crossbows. If you don’t have the feat (I forget the name, but the whole point is to let you make AOO’s with a bow). Next: moving into an enemy’s threat range only provokes an attack of opportunity if you are not actively engaging that character. For example: I charge at two orcs and swing at one of them. The one I engaged gets no attack of opportunity, the other one does. OR I Bull Rush one enemy and end up in the threat zone of another unengaged enemy, the bystanding enemy gets to attack me. Basically if you’re moving into a threat zone while not being focused on that particular threat, it’s an AOO. Lastly: you cannot make an attack of opportunity if you’re engaged with another enemy AND you cannot disengage to make an attack of opportunity. You don’t get to move in order to get your attack of opportunity. In summation, No Legolas does not get an attack.

      1. johanna says:

        Oh that makes perfect sense now. Wait, I wasn’t really listening (TL;DR) ha ha! Can you just tell me if I get to attack or not? My hubby has some sort of program that he uses the laptop to track everything so he doesn’t have to (I think it came with the D&D online paid subscription). It has really cut down on the “whose turn is it again?” after looking in a book and trying to figure out what is going down.

        It also cuts down on the drooling while the rulebooks are being looked over. You can always use the extra drool to help clean up the wet-erase mats but EWWWW!

      2. beleester says:

        This isn’t quite right (at least in 3.5). AOOs apply if you’re moving out of (or through) a threatened area. If you enter a threatened area and stop, then you don’t provoke an attack. If two orcs are standing side by side and you charge at one of them, then you don’t provoke because you enter both their threatened areas at the same time and don’t move any further. If one of the orcs was standing a bit closer and you had to charge past him to reach the second one, then you’d provoke.

        The two exceptions are the withdraw action (you move directly away from the threatened area and you do nothing but move on your turn) and the 5-foot step.

        “Engaged” isn’t a thing in the rules – even if you’re in melee with someone, you still threaten all the squares around you, and any orcs that try to run past you will provoke an attack. (Grappling, like Aragorn is, is something different.) You’re correct that an AoO doesn’t include a move.

  4. vonKreedon says:

    This rule-boundedness seriously bothered me at times as it really gets in the way of role playing as both playing and collaborative story creation. I much preferred DMs who took on the role of God and would simply tell me what the hell happened after I told the DM what I tried to do. Of course this doesn’t work if one or more of the other players are rules lawyers.

    Also, I much preferred GURPS over D&D as that system seemed to lend itself more to just playing the encounter out without worrying if you’d rolled the the twenty or the twelve sided dice.

  5. Spider says:

    Felagund, you are right, but the point is still the same. The combat system is good and fun, but it can get insanely complex very fast. There is a point at which the rules of the RPG can hinder the fun of the game. Part of good DMing is knowing when to chuck the rules, just like part of peing a good player is keeping quiet so the DM can chuck the rules (so everyone can have more fun).

  6. ShadoStahker says:

    a) Calculus isn’t incredibly hard once you learn it. It’s just very difficult to learn.

    b) Actually, you don’t get an AoO when someone enters one of your threatened squares. You get one when someone leaves one of your threatened squares. If they move from one threatened square to another, or move away from you, that is. If they just move up to you and into a threatened square, you get nothing.

    As for the specific questions, most are pretty simple.

    – Generally everyone only gets one AoO per round, and can only take it with a melee weapon. If a player decided to take Combat Reflexes, let them remember how many they’ve taken.

    – If two people get an AoO at once, they both get to take it. Resolve the attacks in the order they should have occurred. If one person is passed first, they take their AoO first. If both got AoOs at the exact same time, the person with the highest initiative should attack first.

    – AoOs generally don’t knock a target into another square. If they did, for some reason, it would be resolved like normal movement. Movement out of a threatened square provokes an AoO. The person who forced the enemy to move probably shouldn’t get a second AoO for this, though.

    – Size differences don’t matter. They should be treated the same way as smaller creatures.

    – Why would tentacles matter?

    – A creature who charged is allowed to take AoOs. A sprinting creature isn’t allowed to take any attacks, including AoOs.

    – You don’t threaten any squares while grappling, and as such can not recieve an AoO. If you’re grappling, you need to win an opposed grapple check to escape (even if you started it), unless you’re pinning the opponent. If you’re pinning the opponent, you can release him as a free action, and then take your AoO.

    – You can’t take an AoO against a creature you aren’t aware of. That just makes sense. Allow a spot check if you want.

  7. Alex says:

    Hah, it’s like the joke has continued from the strip into the comments! If you ever publish these in book form (assuming all copyright laws suddenly vanish in a puff of smoke and suchlike), you HAVE to include the comment threads. XD

    Oh, and speaking of nitpicks, in the DM’s very last speech bubble, it should be “whose”, not “who’s”… *ducks*

  8. Rich says:

    CRPGs FTW LOL ;)

  9. Cestus says:

    Arg. AoO are not that hard. You should have stuck with grappling rules, or better yet do something really obscure like overrun where you have to look it up every time.

  10. Cestus says:

    Love the comic though. Keep up the good work!

  11. Karaden says:

    Hye, ShadoStahker-

    “- AoOs generally don't knock a target into another square. If they did, for some reason, it would be resolved like normal movement. Movement out of a threatened square provokes an AoO. The person who forced the enemy to move probably shouldn't get a second AoO for this, though.”
    However movement caused by attacks (pushback) doesn’t provoke AoO, so even if you had an attack that moved people around (which are really rare) it would never cause AoO to happen.

    Also, moveing from one threatened square to another is exactly the same as moveing from a threatened square to a non-threatened square, no special rules involved.

    I wasn’t aware that sprinting characters didn’t get AoO, I’ll have to check that out in the future.

    Otherwise, good work.

    The AoO rules really are very simple. Rule of thumb is, if something leaves a threatened square through their own movement (and it isn’t a 5-foot step) anyone treatening that square gets an AoO provided that haven’t used all their avalable AoO for the turn. Grappleing people don’t threaten any squares and people useing ranged weapons don’t threaten any squares either. Oh, and unarmed people don’t threaten squares unless they have the unarmed fighting feat (I think).

    If you think thats bad, try GMing with a 3.0 way of the bow deciple teamed up with a naganata specilist, now -thats- a headache (Friend and I did that to a DM, was fun having about 5 AoO each per turn as stuff tried to rush us, he also had a feat that if he delt damage with an AoO the opponent couldn’t move any more, thus not allowing them to attack him.)

  12. Myxx Olydian says:

    Classic… I can’t even count the number of mechanics arguments I had to referree, most of which I finally solved with a “this is what I said, and this is what shall be done!” Nothin like a good attitude adjustment to get the game back on track.

  13. Myxx Olydian says:

    Oh, and why the hell is Aragorn bitching about Lego getting an extra attack?

  14. Rufus Polson says:

    Lovely. And while I agree with vonKreedon (I’m a GURPS man most of the time myself), this kind of stuff creeps into any system more complicated than Tunnels and Trolls.
    Could be worse. Anyone here played Chartmaster (uh, I mean Rolemaster)? Bleaahhh! And all the extra rolls and charts and stuff didn’t even give you a lot of tactical options out of it. Lots of pretty spells, though.

    Shadowrun’s combat rules are pretty baroque too.

  15. DireDoomsayer says:

    Myxx Olydian said “Oh, and why the hell is Aragorn bitching about Lego getting an extra attack?”

    Isn’t there always one in the group?

    My question is…Why isn’t Leggy tellin’ Arry…”shut UUUppp!!!”

  16. theonlymegumegu says:

    I love AoOs in D&D. I think they’re a great addition. I mean, look at the hilarious jokes they provoke! XD

  17. Hendrake says:

    I love that last panel! Been there, done that (and a great shot / comment of Legolas).

    “Ref” – heh.

    The player behind Gimli (“the classicist”) is rapidly becoming my favorite. The 1e-obsessed RPer in my group barely acknowledges 3e rules.

    Great work, per usual – nice to see you managed to bring the rules lawyers out in everyone!

    Keep it up! Hendrake

  18. Snowy says:

    I want a “joke” AoO at this comic as it leaves my threatened area to make room for the next comic!

    Buh – dum bum pssshhhh

  19. Mattingly says:

    So we finally get to find out that the reason Lego stabbed on orc in the eye with an arrow is because he could only make an AOO with a melee attack… Brilliant!

  20. Attorney At Chaos says:

    Keraden said –

    “However movement caused by attacks (pushback) doesn't provoke AoO, so even if you had an attack that moved people around (which are really rare) it would never cause AoO to happen.”

    But wait – the rules for a Bull Rush attack say that movement by the defender triggers an AoO normally from other people (but not from the person doing the pushing). (PH 3.5 p 154)

  21. Karaden says:

    Good point Attorney at Chaos..

    I was thinking more from an effect like Gust of Wind (which doesn’t actualy state it one way or the other now that I look at it).

    But you can’t use an AoO to bull rush someone, so you’ll never see that happening as an effect of another AoO. I suppose you’d have to look at the rules on the attack that makes the movement happen, because there really arn’t any that I can think of off hand that you could use as an AoO (even an ancient dragon attacking a fairy doesn’t cause pushback… oddly enough)

  22. Shamus says:

    I like the several comments which defend AoO as “not too complicated” through long explanations, since many of these comments disagree with each other. QED

    Actually, I don’t have that much of a problem with AoO, as long as I’m not the DM and nobody expects me to keep track of it all. Rolling the dice and comparing two numbers is about the extent of my calculating abilities. Anything requiring a flowchart gets house-ruled right out of there. :)

  23. greywulf says:

    Absolutely 100% completely and utterly spot on. I HATE ATTACKS OF OPPORTUNITY.

    There. I said it. I feel better now.

  24. David V.S. says:

    Heh. I have not played D&D in years and have never heard of AoO until now, but enjoyed this comic anyway.

    Alex — forget about “whose” and “who’s”: in that last panel, why is the elf holding an arrow by its fletching?

  25. freefall says:

    Tenticles would matter because if there are enough, it could attack you from multiple directions. Then you would have to do one of these. Preform an amazing feat with your weapon (Yah right), defend amazingly, climb a tree, jump in water, duck, dig, call a friend etc. Basicly, it could easily kill you if it had a chance.

    Oh yah, and arigorn is probally just peeved that legolas is not really a girl. and that they have not gotten any treasure, exp, new levels or any of that other junk. And that the dm is a jerk. Also, the fact that he (dm) just sprang a legon of orcs on them might just have agrivated him a little. Another thing could be that he has not seen any shops so far and that the elves were so snooty. In his eyes his “friends” might just be baggage.

    By now the whole “fellowship” is angry with each other they might go to great lengths to seperate…

    Frodo runs away…

    Sam wants the ring and follows…

    Merry and pippin jump onto the orcs’ backs…

    Arigorn kills Boromer…

    But, those are just speculations. Just fragments of my imagination.

  26. freefall says:

    Also, he is holding the arrow right behind the fletvhing.

  27. SwampFox says:

    This is why we play original D&D. ;-) Love the comic. Keep em coming.

  28. Telas says:

    When AoO questions arise, I always want to flip a coin. I figure the players will win about half the time, so who cares?

    That, or go to the Iron Heroes AoO rules: Standard actions that aren’t attacks, and moving at more than 1/4 speed through a threatened square, are the only things that trigger attacks.

    And who said a bull rush can’t be used in an AoO? Per the rules, any standard action attack can be an AoO (trip, disarm, etc), even if it draws one from the guy you’re AoOing… (My house rules, however, call it a simple melee attack, regardless of feats, etc.)

  29. Orcbane says:

    Wizards of the Coast: Turning DMs into Lawyers since 2000!

  30. AlbinoDrow says:

    Let’s hear it for having a group that throws the rules out the window when this problem arises. Loved the comic! :D

  31. smilydeth says:

    Just in case anyone was interested…..In DnD 3.5, there is a feat that allows an archer to threaten a space at range…effectively creating AOO on targets entering the space….note this is a change from the standard rules in which you create AOO by leaving a space….drat where’s my calculator!!

  32. DCollins says:

    I laughed so hard I started crying.

    But the poster above is correct about the basic rule — it’s not “if someone enters a square adjacent to an enemy”, it’s “if someone *leaves* a square adjacent to an enemy”.

  33. Parable says:

    Dam Wizards of the Coast… not for making every one lawyers… Because i used to talk with Pete Venters all the time and when i let on about a great M:TG tournament deck i had he decided to notify people that it was too strong and i found a broken mechanic and they changed the dam Errata knocking me from legal tournament use that year. Bastards. Okay, that was really off topic… guess i just needed to let that out.

    Alex’s post earlier summed up the real humor of this strip. The strip was funny, the comment below it was funny, but the funnier part is that it has now stretched into our real lives… inculding debates and corrections on how it works. Wow… reminds me of all those rules clarifications and arguments when i played. Except my DM would basically invoke the wrath of God and alter the universe to his whim and resolve everything in the manner that made him feel better before allowing life to return to normal. Which pissed off some people but since he always let me fudge my character creation under pretense of “important to future plotline” i never complained about the god complex. (I hope he’s not reading this)

  34. Pete Zaitcev says:

    During the filming, Orlando Blum had to dry-fire his bow, because due to sheer number of necessary arrows the bow would not survive long enough if fired properly. Arrows were later digitally inserted into the scene. (Source: unknown, but I remember that I’ve read this on paper. Must be a magazine in a dentist’s office). The explanation makes no sense to me, because I have no idea what actually wears in a bow when fired: string, the sprung material, string ends, or whatever. Thus I don’t know why firing an arrow wears the bow faster. But if true, then Legolas might hold some things wrong quite naturally.

    1. WJS says:

      I thought that dry-firing a bow is more likely to damage it. The energy stored when you pull it back has to go somewhere, and if there’s no arrow to push, more of it is absorbed by the bow itself.

    2. Andy says:

      Really, you don’t FIRE a bow unless you set it alight, you may loose an arrow, or if you really want to, you can shoot a bow, but if you’re ever at Agincourt or any other battle with bows and you order your troops to “Fire” there will be much consternation and searching for flammable materials.

  35. Mom says:

    you HAVE to include the comment threads. XD

    This is so true! The biggest laugh for me was when i saw there were 33 comments on this one.

  36. Steelbutcher says:

    Attack of opportunity? Threatened squares? Controlled area? Go back to 2nd edition and learn/remember the difference between role-playing and combat simulation. Yeah, I’m a relic, but “calculus” and “game” are mutually exclusive, and I’d rather game.

  37. TheEvil says:

    I love the strip! However, I have to say that after a 2nd edition game in which the GM said that the orc chieftain could hack the hand off of an unconcious PC my character was guarding with sword drawn, reach down and grab the severed hand with magic ring attached (ironic, eh?)and run back behind his guards and said I couldn’t do anything because it wasn’t my turn in the initiative, I rather like attacks of opportunity.

  38. Will says:

    Dry firing the bow makes no sense at all. Having been into archery at one time, I know that dry firing is extremely hard on the mechanics of the bow, much more so than actually firing an arrow. If you dry fire a bow while shopping at most stores, they’ll force you to buy it on the spot.

    Now of course I was shooting modern compound bows rather than the yew recurves you’d likely use as props in a fantasy movie. They may not even pony up for real English yew.

    I’m betting they had him dry fire because they didn’t want to chance an arrow coming off the knock during filming and potentially killing someone.

  39. Gee, makes me nostalgic for OSRIC/OD&D and RQ … ah for the days when I worked at TSR and all was right in the world …

    Though for lots of 3rd edition humor

    still having fun as a lawyer
    and with rules at

  40. Fieari says:

    I also think AoOs aren’t complicated. The rule is basically, if someone is threatening you with a melee weapon, anything you do that’s not on the following list provokes an attack of opportunity.

    Things that don’t: 5′ step, “withdrawal action” (moving away without attacking or doing anything else), making a regular attack with your weapon, casting defensively, and succeeding on a tumble check.

    Now, complexity comes in when you see the “almost”. When things are marked out as not provoking, it adds more exceptions, and you have to look them up, which is frustrating, but can be hand waved away by the DM easily enough. The various feats which make things not provoke also make things more complex, but I say, if you the player picked the feat, you’re responsible for reminding the DM that you’re safe, otherwise you get nailed.

    Note that you provoke for leaving a threatened area, because you’re “doing something while threatened”, but not entering, because you aren’t threatened before you enter, and thus you’re safe.

    Not having AoOs give a big powerboost to spellcasters, and mean that it’s impossible to stop someone from just rushing right by the bodyguards and killing the king just because he won initiative. I love the AoO rules, and wouldn’t play without ’em.

  41. I still don’t understand why AoO are so hard for some people to deal with and wonder how it is that AoO so infrequently comes into play in my games in the first place. AoO rules are included in the game for good reason; namely to represent that certain actions and movement in combat will subject you to additional dangers that makes those activities something to be avoided, not bulldogged through. On those few occasions where they come up in my own games it is not a matter of getting as many AoO as possible but of PC’s and monsters alike avoiding AoO as much as possible, subjecting themselves to extra attacks only when the need to perform a given threatening action or move is notably greater than the possibility of taking additional damage, or the player just doesn’t care as the additional damage is unlikely to have a significant impact on the encounter. Grappling, however, gets avoided simply because the rules for it are now, always have been, and likely always will be, stupidly obnoxious.

    Love the strip, BTW!

  42. Eltanin says:

    I’ve been an avid fan of this site since a friend pointed me to the comic. Now I come back for the blog as much as anything. Great fun!

    The real calculus comes in trying to figure out how many replies have been posted by counting the dice counter to the left of each post. Interesting choices you made with that counter!

  43. ngthagg says:

    This comic is spot on. Never before have I seen comments add so much to a comic strip.

    Here’s my favourite wacky AoO situation:

    A character, low on HP but with a potion in hand, wants to back away from the enemy who threatens him and drink the potion. So the guy backs up 30 and starts drinking. Because he did not take a withdraw action, the enemy gets an AoO, hits him, and drops him below 0 HP. Of course, the character doesn’t get dropped 30 ft. away, he gets dropped next to the enemy. Obviously, he got knocked unconcious because he tried to drink the potion. But he only tried to drink the potion once he was 30 ft back. Since he isn’t 30 ft back, he obviously never tried to drink the potion, so the enemy shouldn’t have attacked him. But since the enemy didn’t attack him, then he will try to drink the potion . . . you see where this leads.


    1. Bob says:

      The AoO in this case comes when he tries to back off. “I back up 30 feet”… no, you TRY to back up 30 feet, but in actuality as soon as you start to move, your opponent gets his shot in. There’s no paradox.

      Similarly, “drinking a potion” involves some preparation such as finding the bottle, making sure it’s the right one and not Dave’s Hot Sauce or something, and opening it before you can begin to drink. The AoO happens during this preparation, rather than during the actual swallowing, so even in this case it’s pretty obvious you get the damage from the hit BEFORE you get the benefit of the potion, and if the damage incapacitates you, then the potion just spills out on the ground (if your DM is kind, he may rule it happens before you got it open, so at least it’s there in your unconscious hand for one of your teammates to force down your throat to keep you from dying).

  44. Althor Creel says:

    We have a very simple AoO house rule for our campaigns. We ignore it and don’t use it. How is that for simple? LOL

  45. I’m with Will: I bet the reason for dry-firing the bow was safety. You can load a gun with blanks, but this is the only way to blank-fire a bow. And since I doubt that Orlando Bloom is a master bowman. And because it’s hard for anyone, even a master, to fire two arrows at once. And because in scenes where an arrow actually hits someone, the “someone” is computer-generated anyway, so the arrow would also have to be computer-generated at some point.

  46. Karaden says:


    Mages must have a hard time in your campain since fighters can’t stop people from rushing them all the time. AoO is good for lots of reasons that others have pointed out, like TheEvil and the unstopable orc.


    Not really that hard to work out, his first action was a move action to back up 30 feet, which provoked an AoO, which got him knocked unconcious, he falls on the spot and his turn ends, not really that complicated.

    It really seems like people’s trouble with AoO is that they’ve never actualy read the section on it or something, because its a rather simple half page explination, there is an abreviated three sentance explination in the back of the book in the glossary. All abilities, actions and whatnot will say if they provoke attacks of opertunity, so if your useing an ability, you should know, because you should have read that section to know what the heck the ability does in the first place. And even if you can’t remember it from that, there is a handy chart (p141 PHB) that lists virtual every action there is and weather it provokes AoOs or not.

    Most complicated thing I’ve ever seen in game when useing AoO is remembering if you’ve used your AoO or not for the turn. (excepting my earlier way of the bow/naganata specilist combo)

    Oh, and having read through the AoO section, you can’t make a bull rush on an AoO, or feint or any of those things. Read it, it says that you get “a single melee attack” as in a normal attack with a melee weapon. Bull rush, feint and all those others are used “as a standard action”. While a standard action can be a melee attack, the melee attack from AoOs arn’t standard actions, so you couldn’t bull rush as an AoO. Though things like that could certenly be made house rules, by the book you couldn’t (and bull rush in particular I wouldn’t general allow because it doesn’t use a weapon)

    Well, I’m fairly sure this particular topic has generated more posts then any other.

    Oh, and really, don’t start dropping rules just because they are a little difficult, magic is one of the most confuseing parts of the game (takeing up nearly half the book) but you don’t see people dropping it because its too hard to figure out.

  47. Anonymous Fan says:

    Longtime viewer, first time commenter.

    Love the comic, please keep it up!

    As to today’s strip: you, and everyone else who commented ahead of me have succinctly encapsulated the many reasons why I gave up playing D&D (whatever version AD&D is) years ago. If I wanted to argue combat rules, I’d play miniatures. There’s a reason why these things are called ROLE-PLAYING games and not RULE-PLAYING games. At least, I thought there was a reason besides making money off the intellectually advanced and socially awkward.

    Call of Cthulhu is the best system ever: you roleplay, you roll, it doesn’t make any difference, you die. It should be called “The Game of Life.”

  48. Karaden says:

    What I want to know about the bow and arrow is why he draws it to his mouth instead of his eye… thats got to make aiming difficult.

  49. Crusader Corim says:

    I have to agree with Shamus that the sheer number of comments really cements the beauty of this thread. Especially the ones who say “AOO are really easy” and give a half-a-page explaination, that is contradicted by the second half-page explaination.

    Oh, and I agree with SDB about the reason for dry-firing. Most likely safety, not bow longevity, was the number one reason.

    And Karaden? He’s an elf. They do things strangely. Silly elfs.

  50. Pink Fuzzy Bunny says:

    It figures that this joke about how much space is devoted to AOO rules and discussion in the game would itself spur the longest page of rules discussion in the strip.

  51. Aaron Litz says:

    Oh yes, it’s so very hard to determine whether or not you’ve distracted yourself and made an opening for a free swipe at you.

    You drop your guard, they get a free swing at you. You run past someone willy-nilly, they get a free swing at you. No half-page explanations. Nothing complicated. No rulebooks required, even. Just plain simple common sense.

    It isn’t rocket science, dude.

    And yes, I really do think it adds to the feeling of realism when rummaging through your backpack and drinking a potion in the middle of combat gives your opponent a free swing at you.

  52. Fernmonkey says:

    Aaron, I agree. It does actually make sense if you think about it, as do the concentration roll rules.

  53. Parzival says:

    Yeah, I think it’s a hoot that the comments have continued in the same manner as the comic. As a rules designer myself, that tells me that the AoO rule in the latest version is A Bad Rule. But there’s more than enough here about that.

    As for why Legolas draws the bow to his jaw, as a former archery instructor I can say that’s because that’s exactly where he [i]should[/i] draw the bowstring. There’s a natural resting point for the thumb just under the right cheek; it keeps the hand steady, allowing for precise aiming. That’s the way I was taught, and I became a pretty fair shot using that technique. Drawing to the eye really doesn’t give any advantage.

  54. Anonymous Fan-
    One of the best reasons for the existence of online discussion forums is to discuss rules OUTSIDE of the game, not during the game. I can tell you that the need for the DM to make arbitrary rulings when rules issues pop up is greatly reduced by 3E rules. People argue 3E rules a lot more than during AD&D 1E/2E days because the public forums are available to do it. You don’t really see AoO discussed much elsewhere though. Interesting.

    Oh, and the reason for Bloom drawing to his mouth rather than eye is one of two things: nobody told him otherwise; or more likely they DID tell him to do so because it leaves more of the actors face exposed for the camera instead of the back of his hand.

  55. Will says:

    Karaden, pulling to your mouth serves two purposes.

    Look at the last image in the comic. See how he has the tip of his index finger is resting in the corner of his mouth? You do that because it is a very steady and consistent draw point. The second reason is that, in the heat of battle, there is less risk of you stabbing yourself in the eye with your fingers and the knock of the arrow when drawing to the corner of your mouth instead of to your temple.

    To aim, you put two visible notches in the side of the bow. One is centered on the bow itself. This is where you want the shaft of arrow to set when you draw, so you grip just below this point. The second notch is placed roughly the vertical distance from the corner of your mouth to your eye above the first notch. This gives a basic reference point from which you can then train yourself to hit what you’re shooting at based on distance, wind, deflection, etc..

  56. dpmcalister says:

    As for Legolas not getting an AoO because he’s using a bow. I’m pretty sure the player would have twinked him out all the way, including a couple of levels in the Order of the Bow Initiate prestige class. The second level of that PrC gives you the ability to threaten squares with your bow.

    Of course, I only know this because I’ve twinked my archer PC with that PrC ;)

  57. haashaastaak says:

    I predict the final tally of comments for this trip will exceed 100. But I guarantee I won’t read any more that have individual paragraphs about rules that are longer than a dozen lines!

  58. Gropos says:

    Will is correct. Drawing a bow to your check the standard practice. In fact, drawing an arrow to your eye would be incredibly disorienting. Imagine playing pool and bringing the cue back to your eye, it just won’t work.

  59. AltarielofLothlorien says:

    I love these comics! Are you going to continue into Two Towers and Return of the King? It would be hilarious to see what Aragorn does when he finds out there are TWO pretty girls after him.

  60. Stratim says:

    i just wanted to remind everyone to click on the ads once in a while. with this many views, it cant be cheap to keep the place running.

    Great job on the comics!

  61. -Chipper says:

    And the hits just keep coming. :-) Great comic.

    Regarding Legolas ‘dry-firing’: one reason was safety, another reason was to make him look like a suave elf archer expert – it would have been very difficult for Orlando to smoothly, repeatedly reach back to the quiver, draw one arrow, perfectly fit it into the bow, draw back, shoot, and repeat as we see in the movie if he had to use real arrows. We saw him rapid-firing several arrows per camera shot at around one per second.

    For some closeup shots he did use real arrows.

  62. The Bitch says:

    It’s all been said; and then some; and then some more. I mostly just wanted to see the dice change. Oh, I love this strip.

  63. TaliEaterOfWorlds says:

    I’ve never found the rules all that confusing, usually have to glance at it when it comes up, but no diffrent then bull rushing, tripping, grappling, undead turning etc. etc. etc.

  64. Technical notes on the Elf:
    Having worked with both archers and with prop weapons for theatre/films, I’d posit the fighting sequence bow was of laminated rubbers (a soft composite, but not lethal) with harder plastic tips to secure the “string” which would have been safer to touch barehanded than gut or wound chord stock. There would have been at least three backups for various circumstances in the film, plus repairs on set. They had old-world artisans as consultants for the design, swordmasters for the combat – I can only guess that someone had a word or two with Bloom before they began shooting (either film or arrows). After all, it’s not like he’s playin’ a gangsta whose goal is to hold the weapon in his own special way.

    Not so technical:
    Legolas just knows he’ll hit; he’s in an epic story and the CG integration is on his side. If he fired wildly, the foley artists would have an offscreen thunk/Argh combo ready to tell ue he’d hit someone with a natural 20.
    Imagine the effect on morale if Legolas was only 3rd level and was really good at running on water, but kind of duffing his shots? Oh, the ribbing he’d take.

  65. Antiquated Tory says:

    What our minmaxing player has done in our current Iron Kingdoms campaign is take a Large character (Ogrun) with reach and given him the Combat Reflexes feat. So he is pretty much an Attack of Opportuning fool, since most M creatures are subject to an AoO when closing with him.
    His other favorite tactic is to Trip (he also took Improved Trip) using his 21 STR and whack opponents when they’re prone. If he misses, he gets an AoO when they try to get up! Stupendous!

  66. Karaden says:

    Hmm, interesting to know about the bow. I was never told that when I took any archery, but then again, we where learning to fire our arrows under the heat of mid-summer, not battle, so there wasn’t much worry about us jabbing our own eyes out.

    -Antiquated Tory

    Eh, large characters always have that kind of advantage, though their dex tends to be lowish. Besides you can get the same effect with a reach weapon.

    Oh, and do Way of the Bows still threaten with their bow in 3.5? I thought that was something they only did in 3.0 and it got changed. I’ll have to look it up and see.

  67. vonKreedon says:

    When my son was 10 he and his schoolmates started playing what they called Dugeons & Dragons, but there were no dice, no rule books, no character sheets and no minatures! It was pure collaborative story telling and could be done anywhere at any time; the players told the DM what they did and the DM told them what happened. I was in awe.

  68. Shamus says:

    vonKreedon: That is really cool.

  69. Benementat says:

    Damn. 69 posts. Damn.

    Now on topic: This strip is the best! Loved the books, movies were better than could be beheld with just one watching, and this mash up of old, newer, and newest incarnations of the story beats it all for laughs!

    I’m leaving from work in an hour to go start in a new campaign for Gamer Group Extreme in A^2. should be fun. I hope there are no Aoo monsters for the first session…..

  70. Blue sky at night says:

    “Oh, and why the hell is Aragorn bitching about Lego getting an extra attack?”

    Have you not heard of inter-player rivalry? “My character is better than yours”, “Yeah but I killed 435786996 orcs on my own, with one hand behind my back one eye closed and armed with a broken tooth pick”, these rank up with “Why are you letting him do that? Thats not fair!”

    “Shadowrun's combat rules are pretty baroque too”
    No, the character generation and equipment rules are, but the combat rules are simple. Although I have not yet run a combat that lasted longer than 12 seconds of game time.

  71. Jane says:

    Not only is the cartoon hilarious (got here via a link from a friend’s LJ), but you’ve just reminded me why I stopped playing D&D, gave the books away, went over to HeroQuest and have never looked back.

  72. Blue sky at night says:



    [Weakly] not……proper…..rpg…….*gasp*…..

  73. Rufus Polson says:

    Yes, Shadowrun’s combat rules are pretty baroque. Depends how much of them you’re actually using. Start mixing magic, melee, ranged (including some single-shot, some semi-auto, some burst, and some full automatic fire, with all the recoil headaches they involve), astral, and rigger combat together (drone rigging, to be precise), not to mention the interesting things that happen when you start tossing grenades around and have to measure for the “chunky salsa effect”, and by me it gets fairly complex. Plus the probabilities are just weird, because difficulty changes target numbers but skill adds dice, so they don’t work on the same axis, and the cascading dice thing means that sometimes a change in difficulty makes basically no difference while other times the same change in difficulty can make you *a third as likely to succeed*!
    Speaking as someone who’s run a drone rigger in combat, sussing out just what you can get a group of drones to do if you’re in “captain’s chair” mode vs. jumped fully into one of them, depending on how smart they are . . . it can get ugly.

  74. Roxysteve says:

    I have no idea why people have so much trouble with AOO, but in the last campaign we had a character who would need to have it explained at every ****ing encounter. He would also yell “I cleave” when facing a single enemy, which drove me nuts.

    It’s bad enough trying to deal with a poorly designed or poorly worded rule, but when people won’t read even the well-written ones the whole thing goes nails-up in short order.

    God help these guys at tax time.

    Here’s a thought: Chessex make some really nice small dice. You can use these to track who has taken an AOO if the sheer number in the party is causing a problem and you’re using the grid (it has already been pointed out that the vast majority of creatures get one and one only AOO no matter how many tentacles they have).

    Now for the real reason for my posting. This damn comic is going to get me fired. I’ve been busted six or seven times already browsing it from work. It’s like visual heroin.

    A brilliant idea and excellent execution of it. Keep up the good-if-unpaid work Shamus. I’ve sent a link to about twenty-five people today who badly need to read your story.


  75. Richard Dragonbane says:

    I’m with Steve there on the visual crack theory.

  76. Stef says:

    Visual crack, totally. I’ve done sod-all all morning since I got sent the link to part 1. Thankfully I’m working from home and so haven’t been busted. Yet!

    I mainly play the various AEG systems so don’t talk to me about sloppily written rules!

  77. apandapion says:

    In my experience, the AoO rules exist to discourage characters from doing certain things that don’t make sense in a real battle. For instance, it wouldn’t make any sense for a player to run through a sparse crowd of monsters without getting attacked (but without AoE you can do that.) AoEs make characters behave more like they are in a battle – the foes around them are still dangerous, even on your turn, if you do something silly like run straight past one.

    AoEs don’t happen that often in my games. But the threat of AoEs cause players to behave, in my opinion, like they are in an actual battle. Then again, I feel free to toss out any AoE rules in situations that I think are particularly broken, just like any rule. For instance, I know right off what to say if someone asks if they get an AoE if a target is knocked back. “You don’t. AoEs exist to punish poor tactical behavior, and thus you never get an AoE for movement that a target didn’t choose to do.”

  78. Lev Lafayette says:

    For BlueSky… I believe Jane is referring to HeroQuest the roleplaying game (as in “Epic Roleplaying in Glorantha”), not HeroQuest the boardgame..

  79. Harlock says:

    While Karaden is right in that you can’t bull rush or feint as an AoO, you can disarm, trip, or grapple. In fact, one of my favorite characters will do any or all of those as AoOs depending on the situation. Kinda fun, really. I disarm him, he reaches for his weapon, I trip him, he gets up, I disarm him again. Fun for the whole orc horde!

  80. Marty says:

    I just wanted to see a fifth die in this thread.

  81. JTrithen says:

    yeah, the players have to make the decision in half a second (to a millisecond) anyway; you call that realistic…??!!!

    it all “comes out in the wash” anyway, as we like to think….

  82. Kay Shapero says:

    I used to play (briefly) in a campaign where melee turns were So Long that I would play Yahtzee with D12s whilst waiting for my turn. There ARE limits…

  83. Jessamyn says:

    It may just be my own twisted, childish sense of humor but… I can’t believe nobody said anything about Legolas wanting to ‘nail this guy’! lmao

  84. Rhapsody says:

    I play Rolemaster. (or “chartmaster” or “tablemaster” if you prefer.

    Opportunity attacks in d20 – and the convoluted logic that justifies them – is part of why.

    1. WJS says:

      It’s convoluted logic to point out that without AoOs, characters can act with impunity and monsters can’t do a damn thing about it because “it’s not their turn”?

  85. Land Phil says:

    Maybe its just because I’m a twisted sadomasochist, but I actually LIKE the AoO system…

  86. I say to each their own. Why is it such a crime for groups to throw out whatever rules they want, if it makes the rping go smoother? We used to game with a very large group (even now we’re *down* to 9), and keeping track of all that stuff took absolutely forever (we probably could have played Yahtzee as well).

    I think that it’s not bad for the DM to make a “god” call and play however they please, but it’s also okay for people who enjoy playing exactly by the rules too. It’s all supposed to be fun and games anyway, isn’t it?

    **I agree with Shamus. I didn’t even bother reading the essays explaining how “easy” this set of rules are. You either get it, or you don’t, apparently. We only go as far as mutually agreeing that if you try to run, with an enemy beating you down, you gave them your back and deserve to be smacked again.

    **And when I was being taught in girl scouts (awww) to fire a bow, we used the mouth not the eye. *shrugs*

  87. gbonehead says:

    “So we finally get to find out that the reason Lego stabbed on orc in the eye with an arrow is because he could only make an AOO with a melee attack… Brilliant!”


    I **really** need to stop reading this at work!

  88. Cernenus says:

    I’ve done a fair bit of archery, and been trained by a few folks that surely knew what they were doing.. NEVER was I taught, or did I see anyone ‘draw to the eye’. the mechanics of it just don’t work, you have to hold your bow arm too high.. drawing to the mouth, or cheek is much more common. Many times I’ve actually seen bowstrings with a little tiny saucer shaped bead above the nock point called a ‘kiss button’ the idea being to draw so that the button was ‘just’ touching, right between your lips.. creates a very consistent draw.

    With my compound bow I use a mechanical release that is held in my hand, has a wrist strap to take most of the tension, and a little trigger to release the bowstring. When using that I can draw with my palm down (instead of towards my face), So then my standard draw is to pull back so that my thumb is just below my jaw, and my first nuckle of my index finger is along the edge of my jaw. some folks draw back nearly to their ear. If you are using (as I do) a peep site (small little donut embedded in the bowstring that you site through) then there is a limit of how far back you can draw and still use the site.. (and also not unseat your arrow, which is bad)

    In some of the first frames in the seqence above it looks a lot like leggo-my-ass is overdrawing, and risks dropping the head of the arrow off.. that’s bad.. In the last frame is draw is not bad, but he’s not got his bow-arm elbow turned out all the way, and if he releases that arrow he’s likely to give himself a nasty welt right at the inner base of his elbow.

  89. Randallw says:

    almost to 100.

    In my case I had a remorhaz fighting a party. It tried to swallow the Thri-keen character. Hmm, we haven’t used grapple rules yet I thought.

  90. Whiplash says:

    This is why I play 1st ed. More about the game than the rules. After all….aren’t rules decisions supposed to be why there’s a DM?

  91. Sunblast says:

    Wait a minute… Moving into a square adjacent to an enemy doesn’t provoke an attack of opportunity. o_O

    1. Wide And Nerdy says:

      Correct, its leaving a threatened square that provokes attacks of opportunity unless you make a tumble check or use the five foot withdraw option.

      But those aren’t the only actions that trigger attack of opportunity. Failing a concentration check when casting a spell from a threatened square also triggers one. I haven’t played 3rd edition in ten years and I still know the attack of opportunity rules. What’s everybody else’s excuse?

  92. Rythar says:

    Heh, good comic!
    I agree, bad to read@work, yet I am doing so.

    I never used AoO in my games, but I did use my godlike abilities as DM if players did something as silly as run through horde of monsters, so that they got whacked.
    Common sense rules.

    Still some to go until 100 comments.
    And it’s soon one year from first posted comment on this topic. :D

    Sheesh, I wonder whether Shamus still checks these *chuckle*

  93. Edge of Thornes says:

    lol can’t believe the thread stopped so close to d100…

    LOVE the comic, have been carefully avoiding looking at end to see if all three films get the ‘shamus treatment’, I sure hope so.

    I learned on the 1st ed, then the group drifted off into palladium, CoC, Champions, Amber diceless and finally various White Wolf games, due to the last two we tend to focus on roles over rolls (though we had to rid ourselves of the minmaxing, rulesrapist freak who was tying us down to endless arguements about ‘nothing’)

    we recently returned to 2nd ed (only version we all had books for) and champions (5th because we only needed one book and the character maker, the *only* way to do champions characters lol) but still keep the idea of ‘the story’ over dice. mostly the dice roll stands but if it doesn’t make sense the ST (DM or GM) adjusts it. you don’t get off scott free from bad things rolled, they are only made into something more reasonable for what is happening and what the pc was trying to do. like someone mentioned before our ST (often me) would never let someone cruise through the baddies just because they hadn’t come up for attack yet…

  94. Wulfric says:

    In a campaign I was in in colege, there were 3 of us, myself, another guy named Tim, and our DM Kevin. Since there were only two uf us, combat strategies didn’t really become a big issue because it was just a matter of keeping us both in separate areas of the game. This was a vampire campaign, and my character was a very human vampire hunter with no special abilities except the tools of his trade. However, Tim’s character was a vampire, a fact that was unbeknownst to me at the time. So obviously when our two characters met in the campaign, I felt compelled to kill him, even though the DM had other plans in mind – I was supposed to be helping him. So needless to say, Tim was pretty ticked off at me for attacking his character, and the DM used this to his advantage in the game wherever he could. It created a nice litle tension between the two characters. Of course, since we WERE the only two playing, he couldn’t necessarily kill either of us before he reached his goal. Yeah, that was the summer I ingested way too many Runts (candy) and Coke (cola).

  95. geo says:

    I always let the players do what they wanted in combats as long as it was sensible (or funny) regardless of what the rules actually said. Why make their last hours miserable ones! :o)

  96. Sewicked says:

    For true realism (regarding the AoO argument), you need a tiny clock, counting the seconds, minutes, hours taken up by the discussion. I mostly understand the AoO but only because I’ve played way to much Living Greyhawk.

  97. Mo says:

    99 Replies! I just wanna see 100!

  98. 100th says:

    As do I…

  99. Binary 5 says:

    Break the dice? 5-sub-2.

  100. steelcaress says:

    This last comment showcases everything that’s wrong with d20. Need more playing, and less rules! Attack of Opportunity: Anytime someone comes too close to an enemy, he gets attacked. For free. Regardless of what turn it is. Period. Not, “well, in this case, just like Magic the Gibbering…” Not: we need another manual to deal with this, and a multi-part Dragon Magazine article.

    Argh. Rolemaster was easier.

  101. Logos Diablo says:

    Umm…entering a threatened is not what provokes an AOO. It’s leaving a threatened that provokes an AOO. The only exception is a full-retreat and teleportation, which still provokes an AOO to cast. It’s really not that hard. Of course I don’t really think any of D&D is hard, so…

  102. Vayne Nomin says:

    ooooo the 100 die looks cool. AoO…well…just wanted to say again the 100 die looks cool.

    My eyes are blurry and strained, yet I continue on, this DM of the Rings…every pencil, paper, and dice RPG fan needs to read this, must, mandatory…okay I need to stop…typing…3am…more reading.

  103. Toil3T says:

    Our DM would just rule no AoO for anyone, rather than delving into the rulebook and getting a migraine. As would I. Calculus, on the other hand, IS far easier to understand.
    Also, we recently had a houserule enforced on us: Each round, at the beginning of that round, each player describes what they’re doing. No ifs, buts or long discussions. It’s made combat far easier to keep track of, and it’s more realistic.

  104. SandallE says:


    We eventually started using the “what are you doing” at the beginning of rounds as well. Helped cut down on the, “Oh, well since he’s down I am no longer going to hit monster Y, but rather do Z” scenarios.

    Figuring out AoO is just a PITA, especially with rules lawyers (like me ;)) or people who try to break the rules (me again!). Hence why the DM has the final say and should butt-in when figuring out the combat starts reaching into the hour-long periods.

  105. JD says:

    I’ve only really played, and ever really liked, 2.0. Same thing with our DM. It never gets this complicated, unless you can’t think of a rule that applies to something, and that only ever happened with rogues.

  106. Andy says:

    I just dont see what the problem is with Attacks of Opportunity – apart from the fact that people seem to want a game that spoonfeeds them and treats them like children. The basic concept is simple. I agree it takes a couple of sessions to get used to it, but for goodness sake we’re not morons and I don’t want a game to treat me as one! AOO are so bloody easy it’s ridiculous and I’m very tired of people taking pops at it because they’re too lazy to think

  107. Lord_of_Sorrow says:

    I think the biggest problem with the AoO mechanic is that it interferes with the flow of the game, and the flow of the story. If it takes longer than a minute for the player and the DM to figure out how to resolve the action, the DM needs to make a judgment call.

    It isn’t a matter of intelligence (or lack thereof) – it’s the plain and simple fact that AoO’s occur so infrequently that when they do come up, players panic. I have also seen in my day, players come up with lame excuses for why they shouldn’t receive the damaging end of an attack of opportunity, and when told no, continue to argue for ten minutes.

    Aside from that, Attacks of Opportunity are just fine, and make some sense to have in the game. I just don’t care for it when it disrupts pacing, and makes combat take longer than it already does…

  108. braingamer47 says:

    Actually, in 3.5 moving into a threatened square doens’t provoke an attack of opportunity, nor does forced movement (usually). Moving out of a threatened square wihtout withdrawing or tumbling does.

    Behold my rules knowledge! For it shall one day bind all PCs to me.

  109. Kami says:

    This sounds so much like our 4th ed group right now…with 3 players who’ve never played in an RPG; one who’s played a teeny bit of 3.5; one who’s only played in 1st ed; and only one who’s played about 15 different systems, but therefore keeps thinking “oooh! this thing is like this system!” and then gets muddled (that would be myself); and this is an experienced DM but his first 4th ed game? Yeah. Every bloody roll “what do I add to this? AOO? What’s that again? What’s flanking?”

    Wow…I’m commenting a lot…evidence of the brilliance of this.

  110. ultimate rper says:

    yeah but grappling has saved my groups so many times like if you are stuck fighting a gnome demon that deals damage to you every time you hurt him because of some stupid aura. Shoving that little nuisance into a chest and locking it was great lol

  111. cheesebunny says:

    our DM just says yes to everything, we have some very short and some very long brawls

  112. Caine223 says:

    Oh my gosh, brilliant. This truly capture the two vices of gamers everywhere; grappling and AoO.

  113. Serenitybane says:

    Typically in a large battle situation, this is exactly what happens to me and my group. We shuffle through our sheets for the perfect feat to use, all the while our DM is trying to organize who is doing what and when. Usually I’m the one ending up trying to keep things organized while my peeps argue about who can do what, and what is good xD
    Excellent work

  114. amuletts says:

    During a 2nd Edition campaign we had a DM who thought it was a good idea to add Attack of Opportunity rules. Dear God, why?

  115. GONCOL the cleric-godling says:

    I can’t see the d100; it’s covered by the avatars. :-(

  116. sjc says:

    We had a game going with an experieced GM but first time 3.5 D&D. AoO and Grapple were painful… it got to the point that it just became a “fine whatever, who gets the AoO can take it” when the GM main villian was surrounded and he wanted to move to a more tactically benificial location.
    Also, it is BS when a GM just does the “it happens cause I said so” a RPG is suppossed to be a group effort not a story that the GM is reading to you, I can read a book if I wanted that. If people are unhappy with how a rule works the group should talk about it and either take it out or modify it, taking it out is much faster (and less stressful) as I have seen it go on for weeks when people do not realize that they are not thinking the new rule out and they are going to cause more problems than they are fixing.
    IMHO of course, as I have been told I am wrong on several occasions. :-)

  117. Leyomi the Parodier says:


    BREAK IT……

  118. ictus says:

    nice looking site, but these pages are way too long…

  119. Zamasee says:

    Well, I myself don’t mind the length of the pages. I think that the comments elevate this comic to another level of humour. It doesn’t just tell a story, but allows other to throw in their opinion and tell their version. And some comments have made me laugh out loud and inspired me.

  120. Michael says:

    Tunnels and Trolls? Chartmaster? Yes, I’ve played both of them. The ultra-simplicity of T&T, and the … [i]details[/i] of Rolemaster.

    In fairness, RM wasn’t all that bad. Give each person a photocopy of the weapon that they use, and the critical table that weapon uses. Roll two sets of d100’s (different color) so you read the damage and crit in one shot.

    After all, it’s not like you have to deal with people who make level 1 characters with +25 defense bonus and level 3 spells, who know their spell failure chances for casting spells above their level (yes, spell casters with defense bonus like that — Hey, I was basically given a regeneration magic item by the GM so I had a chance to keep up with the rest of the party. Didn’t help :-).

    Maybe I should point them to this posting …

    Calculus really is simple. You can look at a function f(x), and understand that as early as age 11. You can work with basic geometry and graphs at that age. You can ask “What happens to f(x+d) as d gets small”. From the concept of slope, delta, and limit you get to derivatives really easily.

    Area under a graph is pretty simple, and once you get parabolas easy to estimate. Combine that with smaller sections (limits) and you get integration.

    By the time you learn to work with parabolas, and X^3, you can easily go to simple (polynomial) calculus. You might not get to natural logs, and probably won’t get e^x, but the basics aren’t hard.

    Squares? Not hexes?

    Gimme the Hero system.
    [blockquote]There's a reason why these things are called ROLE-PLAYING games and not RULE-PLAYING games. [/blockquote]
    It’s “ROLL-PLAYING”. You know, roll the die, err …

    [blockquote]And yes, I really do think it adds to the feeling of realism when rummaging through your backpack and drinking a potion in the middle of combat gives your opponent a free swing at you.[/blockquote]
    Hey, it’s your turn’s action. Next thing you know, you’ll be saying that if you run away from an enemy in a computer game, it gets a free swing as you leave, it then gets a move to follow you into the new area, and then continues to get free strikes and follow you as you try to escape.

    … not that I’ve played any games like that, no. The game I played also gave the enemy an attack when you then entered that new space as the enemy that moved after you was there when you entered. (Really bad text-adventure type game.)

    D100! Wee! I’ve actually seen a real D100. It was a LOT larger, and the text a lot smaller.

  121. MKF says:

    We have AOO come up so often in our gamees that, the game has lost almost all fun for me. We have a guy who swears that he can enter a square attack then next round either withdraw to a safe distance, or use the “oh I take a 5 ft step back drink a pot” BS. I will pay anyone on here $100 to meet me at my house, stand 1 ft in front of me, let me hold a longsword, and then try to either take a 5ft step back or try to run away before I can hit you with the sword. It just makes no sense to be able to do either of these thing without your opponent hitting you with an AOO.

    1. johanna says:

      what is said sword made of? foam? cuz, i’ll do it.. i may not be successful but i dont wanna die irl!! maybe i will invent a bong potion that you can drink while whirling and then tumbling on the ground, hmm.

  122. Sparky22 says:

    What about if you have an ability that lets you feint as a free action, can you then use that during an attack of opportunity?

  123. burningeko says:

    and the worst part, when you make a ruling like this on the fly to speed things along and then the players get that gleam in their eye, the gleam that if you allow this they have some super mega combo that isn’t in the spirit of the rules tucked up their sleeves but just needs you to pass rather than veto this little last discrepancy for them to do the super move and you not be able to argue them out of it.
    anyone ever encounter the box of pins scenario in dnd 3rd ed?
    then they have the audacity to scream no fair when you use it against them. the game soon degrades into a game of dragon ball z (OMG! his power level is 100000000, OMFG! HIS power level is 100000001).

    but i guess that’s what happens when you live by the rule once something is decided at the table the rule stands

  124. Ziranphel says:

    Karaden – about the archery, it is easier to sight if drawn to the mouth/cheek rather than the eye. I know this because I shoot barebow (no sights) – you basically triangulate the position of your eye, the target, and the tip of your arrow, without thinking about it. Besides, the fletching would get in the way if you held it to your eye.

    Shamus – great comics

  125. Rose says:

    lol, I love the end of this one. I’d say screw it and let Legolas nail the guy regardless, but I don’t know the rules to begin with so. . . *shrugs*

    1. Elfguy says:

      Well the DM got it backwards anyway…you don’t get an AOO for someone ENTERING a threatened square, you get one if they LEAVE a threatened square without using a 5 foot step or a “withdraw” action.

      And unless Lego has some feat that lets him AOO with a ranged weapon, he can’t do it even then.

  126. Lev says:

    AoO: You take it when you leave a threatened square or do an action that provokes one.

    There. Was that so hard?

    1. Shamus says:

      “…or do an action that provokes one.”

      That’s a tautology.

      Read the rest of this thread. You lost the argument two years ago.

  127. Techan says:

    Within my gaming group, we simplify the AoO to this

    There are many actions that provoke attacks of opportunity, there is a table in 3.5 that outlines this pretty well. (examples: shooting a ranged weapon, casting a spell, or drinking a potion all while engaged in melee)

    Now the real question is WHEN can you take this attack of opportunity, and when can’t you?

    I don’t know if it’s exactly on par with the official rules, but we play it as such:
    If you are NOT engaged in combat with anyone other than the enemy who is provoking the attack of opportunity you can take it. You get ONE attack of opportunity per round unless you have a feat that says otherwise. If you’re engaged with two or more enemies (and they’re engaged with you, i.e. their attention is on you and you didn’t sneak up behind them or anything), both in threatened squares and one of them does something that would normally provoke an attack of opportunity, you can’t take it. The other enemy there would hold your attention and prevent you.
    This doesn’t necessarily apply to enemies who just happen to be next to you, for example, if you and another PC are fighting side by side, each with an orc in front of you, you are both considered to be in one on one combat and therefore if the orc you’re fighting provokes an attack of opportunity you can take it because the other orc near you is engaged with your teammate, his attention is held by the PC trying to kill him so he’s not tying you down.

    It seems the two most commonly used AoO provokers that come up are the entering and leaving a threatened square. Charging into battle with someone does not provoke an attack of opportunity in our games, it seems stupid to us. Withdrawing, though, does, and it tends to be the one that comes up most often. As per the rules above if an attack of opportunity would normally be provoked by someone leaving a threatened square, the person disengaging may make a tumble check, which if successful, negates the attack. To keep people from abusing this we make it such that if you roll a critical fail to tumble away, not only do you fail to avoid the attack, but the attack auto-crits, cause you fell on your ass and made an easy target.

    Essentially it boils down to just making sure the PCs and the DM specify (in melee) who they are currently engaging. In a case of 1 on 1, attacks of opportunity work as normal, take one whenever it’s provoked (as per the table of actions and 1 per round rule). If there’s another enemy engaging you aside from the one provoking the AoO, you cannot take it.
    A bit simpler than the book’s descriptions I think and it makes sense, to us anyways.

  128. hopeless says:

    So if Lego has Combat Reflexes wouldn’t that make this a moot point?

    Oh yes the dm’s not handing out xp…

    Been wondering what would have happened if one page dealt with them gaining a level…

    Where would it have happened?



    What do you think?

    1. Wide And Nerdy says:

      No because as Gimli pointed out, you can’t threaten with a bow or spell, only a melee weapon.

  129. subzero21601 says:

    I’ve been in this situation multiple times when one of my players, (I’m DM) thought that a passive feat was the same thing as an attack. He was a fighter and would rush in the fight saying “I attack the -insert opponent- and use Great Cleave” and my response every time was “It’s Passive and is only usable under a given circumstance! keep on trying to use it as an attack you’re character will “forget” how to swing a sword with that much force.”

    1. anndreana says:

      good idea, usually what happens to me in this situation is i have the player miss and take off there own toe.

  130. shoggo says:

    this ist the point that has my group bugged for a long time tille we sat together and discussed it and come to this
    1vs1 – all rules in the book
    1vs many – the % rule / you take a 10sider androll how good you nail him, in return he rolls how good he doges/escapes… the difference is the % of damage you roll 80 he rolls 40 you do 40% damage of a 10d6 roll
    many vs many – the rule of cool / mostly the ini gets split up at how detailed you can tell how you kill your enemy (lame if you have a dagger/awesome if you poke out his eyes and crush his head with the helmet on ^^)

  131. anndreana says:

    i fell that you are doing a good job with being a dm but yo should work on the story a little. i know you are trying to stick to the movie but have them get attacked a little bit more and find treasure more. also, if they go against the plot, blow them up, that’s what happens when i tried to KILL the dm last time i played this.

  132. WJS says:

    I like the comments that say “We don’t use AoOs, but I agree you shouldn’t just be able to dash through a gang of orcs with impunity”. So… what do you do? If you simply don’t let players do that, then a couple of men can block a passage the size of a freeway. This is clearly just as ridiculous as letting them run straight through. So you let them have a free attack? Guess what genius: That’s what an AoO is!

    AoOs address a major problem with turn-based combat, in that without them characters will just stand there like idiots while the guy next to them aims a bow at them, or casts a spell, or fumbles around looking for a potion, or any of a thousand other things that a guy with a sword should not suffer idly. Is that really a difficult concept to grasp for some people?

    Sorry if this sounds harsh, but I find it quite irritating that so many people seem to implicitly agree with the concept of AoOs, but go ahead and attack them anyway. Do they just not like the name or something?

  133. Von says:

    Is there a program which can calculate these sorts of combat odds, accounting for rules and order of engagement and such, to free up DMs and players for story-crafting and action?

  134. MaxForrest says:

    I usually make sure not to let my friends get into grapples when I’m dming. Too many rules.

  135. 4ier says:

    There are a couple of messed up character encodings in the comments.
    don't should be don’t
    shouldn't should be shouldn’t

    PAGE 2
    Blue sky at night:
    Shadowrun's should be Shadowrun’s

  136. Joshua says:

    Attacks of Opportunity were a great idea in concept for 3.0, but they went WAY overboard with the concept*, and also introduced some weird rules that even approaching an enemy at a normal speed allowed them to get a free swing at you. They were introduced as a rules patch to put back a little reality and tactics in combat that were hampered by a turn-based system. Consider the following situation:

    Evil Mage: “Before I blast your friends, Mr. Fighter, let me introduce you to my minions Ogre 1 & Ogre 2.”
    Ogre 1 & Ogre 2 (simultaneously): Steps in front of Evil Mage. “You want to get to da Boss, you gotta go through us!”
    Mr. Fighter (who is 1st in Initiative): “Ok, I walk around Ogre 1 & 2 and cut down the Evil Mage before he can cast his spell.

    The problem is that they made the AoO too elaborate, and also threw in a bunch of other situations* that provoked AoO that I would argue are non-ideal because they were so enamored of their new rule mechanic. This made the rule much too complex.
    In 4th Edition, they renamed it Opportunity Attacks and heavily limited them to leaving a threatened square and using a ranged attack next to a melee combatant.

    In 5th Edition, they simplified them even more so that they only trigger when creatures leave the threatened reach period. You can thus circle around an opponent to try to reach something on the other side of him, and assumes that you are pivoting to keep your guard up against the threatening enemy the entire time. In my Ogre example above, one ogre would get a swing at you if you tried to circle around the other ogre, and then *that* ogre would get a free swing at you if the mage was more than 5′ or so past the ogre. Ranged attacks no longer provoke OA, but they do have a huge penalty to hit because there is a big nasty threat in your face distracting you.

    * Stuff like attacking an enemy with an unarmed attack or trying to stand up from being prone. This creates odd situations where someone is attacking an unarmed target with a weapon, and yet having that target attempt to defend themselves gives the attacker extra attacks, or how a person covered head to toe in Full Plate armor punching someone with their fists provides an Opportunity Attack but someone who is naked and wielding a dagger doesn’t. With the prone rule, you also had enemies who inexplicably would choose to fight flat on their back or stomach because it was less of a penalty than standing up in combat.

  137. Apophis says:

    Visitor from the distant future, glad that 5e, at least, has vastly simplified what can provoke an AoO to just “when a creature exits an enemy’s melee range”. Was “or performs an action that provokes one” entirely left up to the DM’s discretion or where there prerequisites? The rest of this thread can’t really seem to agree, heh

    1. Wide And Nerdy says:

      I didn’t think their would be a post from this year other than my own.

      Shamus, how many people read a comic strip so long after its run? I haven’t even read a Far Side comic in years.

      This comic is quite an accomplishment and you should be proud. You created a genre of webcomic.

      1. Shamus says:

        Hey W&N, it’s been a while! I don’t know how many people read the comic these days, but I figure there must still be a handful of people every week.

  138. JR says:

    Since I think this comic has triggered about five times the comments on any previous post, I think it’s safe to say this subject is a tender spot!

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